Story of the Shelby Cobra Emblem

For fans of American automobiles, the Shelby Cobra logo is synonymous with legendary American automotive innovation and outrageous performance.

Carroll Shelby’s story has been well documented – his progression from racing champion to manufacturer, and how the word Cobra came to him in a dream. However, the evolution of the cobra snake design is less well-known.

When cars first shipped from the AC factory in England, Shelby removed the AC badges and replaced them with a crude aluminium casting which carried the AC/Shelby/Cobra logo.

The original AC logo

CSX 2000 is the very first Shelby Cobra. Using the body and chassis of the AC Ace, the 1962 model, the model that was owned by Carroll Shelby until his death in 2012, bears the early AC/Shelby/Cobra logo on the trunk.

By 1963, Pete Brock, Shelby’s first paid employee, was heavily involved in designing the corporate image of Shelby American. His brief was simple: design a round badge with a snake on it that says Cobra, and it must be the same size as the original AC badge so it could use the same holes as the AC badge it replaced.

Rinsey Mills, in his authorized biography of Carroll Shelby gives us a fascinating insight into life in the Shelby workshops as Brock rescued Shelby’s own first attempt from marketing disaster:

Pete Brock recalls:

“God it was just incredible – a box arrived in the office and I saw it and picked the thing up and I looked at it and I took it into his office and said ‘What’s this shit?’ And he said, ‘Goddamnit Brock, you just have to say every goddamned thing around here is wrong,’ and he started off on another rant; and I said, ‘Carroll, all I’m trying to do is save your ass and I’m telling you, you cannot do this shit – let me do it for you.’ We had a real row about it and he finally said, ‘Well OK, just go redo the goddamned thing, but I want a snake on it and I want it to say Cobra.’
“So then I redesigned the snake and I picked the font and the type and the colours and the whole thing, and then I went on to design the CS emblem.”

This is Pete Brock’s snake design:

The Cobra emblem first appeared on the 1963 Shelby 289, and continued in use across all Cobra models, appearing on the hood and steering wheel.

When the first Shelby Mustang made its debut on January 27 1965, the same blue and red front-facing Cobra design continued the distinctive Shelby branding, incorporating the GT350 name.

Meanwhile, Fred Goodell, chief engineer at Shelby American, had recruited a talented North Korean designer John Chun to help come up with a concept as a follow-up to Shelby’s GT350. Chun considered that the original Cobra emblem lacked menace, so, after delving through encyclopedias and much redrawing, he eventually came up with the coiled, fangs-bared symbol that is so recognizable today.

On our 1967 Super Snake 1:8 replica, the coiled Cobra symbol is true to the original model, displaying on the steering wheel, hubcap, front radiator grille, trunk, fuel-filler cap, and above the logo on the rocker side stripes.

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